Robert Jones’ Norfolk State squad has heard all about the 2012 squad that wrote itself into the history books. Now the current NSU squad has at least one shining moment in the bag.
NSU came out firing on all cylinders, found itself down late but managed to hold on for a 54-53 win over Appalachian State in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. NSU advances to the Round of 68, where it will take on Gonzaga, the number one overall seed in the tournament.
Senior guard Devante Carter hit a pair of free throws with just under nine seconds remaining to give NSU the lead after losing it multiple times in the second half.
“No one wants to go home,” Jones told the media after the game. “They told me that the flight was leaving tomorrow at 9:30, I told them ‘I’m not packing.”
Robert Morris transfer Jalen Hawkins came up huge for Norfolk State in the first half, scoring 20 points to match App State’s team output, as NSU led 31-20. It led by 18 points with 19:15 remaining in the game before App State finally woke up.
Trailing 45-35, App State went on a 16-0 run that gave it a six-point lead with 5:48 to go. The game remained tight through the last second when a three-point attempt and a subsequent follow fell short.
NSU’s win was the first for the MEAC since Hampton won a First Four game against Manhattan in 2015. It’s NSU’s second NCAA Tournament win, most of any active MEAC program. And Robert Jones is the only active MEAC coach with an NCAA Tournament win.
Add that in with Texas Southern’s win earlier, and the 2021 NCAA Tournament is the first season that both the SWAC and MEAC got wins in the NCAA Tournament.